MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Friday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey appointed a group of 12 people from across the state to conduct a focus study on gambling.
"What's in our state existing, what could be, what would the pros and cons be, what would the benefits be, what would the cost be, look in the area at the states around us," said Sheriff Sam Cochran.
3 of the 12 people are Mobilians. Below is the list of people with a brief statement on their background. The 3 people from Mobile will have asterisk next to their names.
- Todd Strange (Chair) of Montgomery is the former mayor of Montgomery. Prior to his tenure as mayor, he served as chairman of the Montgomery County Commission, former president, CEO and co-owner of Blount Strange Automotive group, and former director of the Alabama Development Office (the Alabama Department of Commerce).
- A.R. “Rey” Almodóvar of Huntsville is the co-founder and Chief Executive officer of INTUITIVE®. Mr. Almodóvar is a licensed professional engineer (P.E.) and holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico, M.S. in Engineering from the University of Arkansas, and M.S. in Business Administration from Texas A&M University. He is a graduate of Leadership Alabama Class XXVI.
- Dr. Deborah Barnhart of Huntsville is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Emerita of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. Previously serving as the Center’s CEO and Executive Director, her career spans four decades of service in commercial industry, government, aerospace and defense. A retired Navy Captain, she was one of the first ten women assigned to duty aboard ships and commanded five units in her 26-year career. She has received an undergraduate degree from University of Alabama at Huntsville and Master of Business Administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Sloan School of Management and the University of Maryland College Park as well as a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.
- ***Walter Bell of Mobile is the past Chairman of Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurers. Prior to his time in the private sector, he served as the Alabama Commissioner of Insurance. He launched the Mobile County Urban League in 1978 and is a member of the Alabama Academy of Honor for his achievement in civil rights, civic leadership and business.
- ***Dr. Regina Benjamin of Mobileis a physician who served as the 18th Surgeon General of the United States. Prior to her service to our country, she was the former president of the Alabama Medical Association and provided health care to a medically underserved community by founding the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic. She received a B.S. from Xavier University of Louisiana and a M.D. from the University of Alabama.
- Young Boozer of Montgomery currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent of Banking at the Alabama State Banking Department. He is the former Treasurer for the state of Alabama and has extensive experience with numerous banking institutions such as Citibank, Crocker National Bank, and Colonial Bank. Boozer received his B.S. in Economics from Stanford University and a M.S. in Finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
- ***Sheriff Sam Cochran of Mobile has been the Sheriff of Mobile County since 2006. He began his law enforcement career with the Mobile Police Department where he spent 31 years working his way through the ranks – serving his last 10 years as Chief of Police. Sheriff Cochran serves the community on numerous agency boards, including the Penelope House, Drug Education Council, Boy Scouts of America, and the Child Advocacy Center.
- Elizabeth “Liz” Huntley of Birminghamis a litigation attorney at Lightfoot, Franklin & White LLC. After rising from an unimaginable childhood, she has become a nationally recognized child advocate and serves on numerous boards including the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, the Children’s Village Board of Directors, and the Auburn University Board of Trustees.
- Carl Jamison of Tuscaloosa is a third-generation Shareholder in JamisonMoneyFarmerPC, one of the largest and oldest public accounting firms in the state of Alabama. He primarily works in the areas of tax planning and audit services to clients in the manufacturing, medical, retail, construction, and professional services industries. He received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Alabama and is a Certified Public Accountant.
- Justice James “Jim” Main of Montgomery is a former Justice on the Supreme Court of Alabama as well as previously served as a Judge on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Along with his 30+ year in private legal practice, he served as Finance Director and policy advisor to Governor Bob Riley as well as Legal Advisor to Governor Fob James.
- Phillip “Phil” Rawls of Pike Road currently serves as a Lecturer of Journalism for Auburn University. His spent over 35 years working for The Associated Press. His respected career in journalism spanned every Alabama governor from George Wallace to Robert Bentley where he extensively covered government and politics.
- Bishop B. Mike Watson of Birminghamis the Bishop in residence at Canterbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham and is currently serving as the Ecumenical Officer of the Council of Bishops. He has served as a minister in Dothan and Mobile. In addition to his work in the ministry, he is a past president of the Mobile County School Board, which is the largest school system in Alabama. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in finance and real estate from The University of Alabama, a Master of Divinity degree from Emory University's Candler School of Theology, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Vanderbilt University.
Talks of legalizing gambling in Alabama date back decades with more than 180 bills filed since the late 1990s, according to Governor Ivey.
"It's about gathering all the facts and making an informed decision without perhaps the political pressures that apply for those in the legislature," Cochran said.
There's a consensus among the people FOX 10 news spoke with today. They're all for legalizing gambling in Alabama. They just want to ensure that the money is properly distributed into areas that could benefit greatly.
"I think they ought to bring it here," said Scott.
"I think it would be a great idea," added Billy Ward.
"I think money is pouring out of here to surrounding states for it. So if its done right I see the value in it," added Jack May.
Speaking of other states, according to the Mississippi Gaming Commission, the state made more than 2.2 billion dollars in revenue in 2019 in casino gaming alone.
Governor Ivey has given the group until December 31, 2020 to present it's findings.
Sheriff Cochran said the group has the option to make a recommendation as a group, individually make recommendations, or not make a recommendation at all. He said they're only completely responsible for presenting their findings.